Dubai’s growth has been twinned with a desire to offer the best in quality service, cuisine and hospitality. Perhaps for that reason, the Emirate’s attractions and retail experiences have grown the tourist and business sectors exponentially, leading to a raft of new hotels. At the top end of the hotel market, Jumeirah Emirates Towers was opened in 2000, at a time when Dubai was beginning to make a huge impact internationally.
“Up until 2008, we were one of several Five Star luxury hotels, but now there are over 450 hotels in Dubai, and the market has become extremely competitive,” says Grant Ruddiman, General Manager of Jumeirah Emirates Towers and Area Manager for the City Properties. “Prior to this, the city and region enjoyed phenomenal growth, supported by a wave of professionals living, working and visiting the region, which helped to fast-track and build the infrastructure,” he continues.
Indeed when Emirates Towers opened, following 4 years of construction, it was one of the first Five Star luxury properties in Dubai, and became just the third property in Jumeirah’s portfolio. The iconic design of the Towers makes them instantly recognisable, with two 51 storey towers linked by a retail complex, as Ruddiman describes:
“The complex is mixed use; the first tower is home to our 400-room hotel and encompasses various food and beverage outlets; the second tower is commercial and primarily home to offices including prominent banks, insurance companies and embassies. The Office Tower also accommodates several government offices and the regional offices to various luxury retail brands.
“Linking the two Towers is a retail complex called The Boulevard, which comprises 51 luxury outlets offering a range of fashion boutiques, luxury goods, jewellery stores and food and beverage outlets.”
The Jumeirah Emirates Towers Hotel is of course an important part of the Complex, which is part of the Jumeirah Group, and owned by Dubai Holdings.
Naturally, as Dubai has grown, a number of districts have been brought to life, with the Emirates Towers located in what is now the Dubai International Financial Centre precinct, not far from Business Bay, Media City and Internet City, just 10 minutes from the all-important Dubai International Airport, and a mere 3 minutes from Dubai Mall, the world’s largest shopping mall.
Ruddiman joined the Jumeirah Group three and a half years ago, and has been in his current role for the past two. He is responsible for the entire Complex, and joined at an interesting time, as the economy was still in the grips of the global economic downturn:
“My role extends to managing the Jumeirah Living Serviced Residences, comprising 377 apartments of between 1 and 4 bedrooms each (essentially an apartment hotel), located two blocks away at the World Trade & Exhibition Centre, and I also oversee the 292-key Jumeirah Creekside Hotel, which is our newest venture and located closer to the airport,” he describes.
“At Jumeirah Emirates Towers we have 3 main revenue sources: we have a Triple A-rated location for the Office Tower; Retail Boulevard; and of course the Hotel.
“The Boulevard and business in general, was undoubtedly affected by the global downturn, and when I joined the property in late 2011, we were starting to recover and had 65 per cent tenancy in The Boulevard. That said, we’ve bounced back quickly, having secured a 95 per cent occupancy, with increased footfall, and trading numbers are well up over prior years. That said, and with the vacancy rate experienced 24 months ago, it forced us to review our strategy and retail mix. Given the vacant outlets at the time, we could be quite selective in the leasing of the space, which has resulted in better segmentation and the appointment of exciting new brands and outlets.
“You have to be bold and have confidence in our brand and our prime location, in order to command premium rates in a very competitive market. Our recent signings are testimony of this, and it’s a win-win situation for ourselves and our tenants,” he continues.
Whilst Dubai is a meeting place for the world, Ruddiman suggests that the bulk of Emirates Towers guests come from the US, UK, Germany and the GCC countries – with Asia and China fast catching up:
“We are seeing a lot more business custom from China, with double-digit growth year-on-year. We also pay close attention to airline connections, as we observe our very own Emirates Airlines’ strategy; one of the fastest growing airlines in the world; understanding their growth, focus and reach as they add flights to several new and emerging markets.”
The global nature of Dubai is also very much reflected in the Jumeirah Group’s employees, totalling 14,000 globally, with over 10,000 in Dubai and 845 at the Jumeirah Emirates Towers – where people from 53 different nationalities work.
“There are pros and cons to having such a mix of nationalities, but undoubtedly, the mix of cultures adds to the vibrancy and learning’s in this melting pot. We currently have five members on our Learning & Development Team at Jumeirah Emirates Towers, offering training from the initial 3 day Orientation Program for all new hires, to specific skills and management courses in hospitality.
“As English is not the first language for the majority of colleagues, we also run English language courses and an extensive list of online courses, while we sponsor and support colleagues who wish to study external courses for professional qualifications, while the Emirates Academy of Hospitality Studies, provides certificate, degree and post graduate degree courses in the hospitality field..
“Part of the Jumeirah employment experience is to reflect the Jumeirah culture, and we have set ourselves three very important Hallmarks which we encourage colleagues to practice each and every day. Dubai has a very clear vision and focus, part of which is to encourage Emirati’s to work in the private sector, and we regard the Jumeirah Group as pioneers within the hospitality sector, offering employment across all disciplines within the business, be this within the hotels, retail operations or water theme park” Ruddiman affirms.
“We have a very aggressive programme to secure employment for local Emirati’s, structured with great employment conditions within a great company. Ultimately the anchor to attracting and retaining staff is the culture of the company, and we are very proud of our achievements in this area.”
With the Jumeirah Group headquartered in Dubai, Ruddiman says that the Emirates Towers is well located to take advantage of corporate support when required. Among the many challenges is to maintain and enhance standards within the hotel – whilst maintaining customer comfort and business as usual.
“Our off-season is between June and August when temperatures are at their peak, and we therefore carry out as much maintenance and upgrading during this less active period, while releasing as many colleagues as possible to take their annual vacation.
“We have significantly invested in refurbishing all 400 rooms and suites over the last 2 years, whilst our food and beverage outlets are an on-going project. Last year we launched Alfie’s Restaurant in partnership with Alfred Dunhill, adding to our portfolio of 14 outlets within the Complex, positioning ourselves as a preferred dining destination within Dubai. We also opened our Talise Fitness Centre within the Boulevard, offering state-of-the-art equipment and training facilities, which is utilised by our resident guests and members.
“Beneath the Complex, we house all our major plant and machinery which in turn supports the essential services to the building, all of which requires annual maintenance and servicing, with replacement of equipment every 8 – 12 years or as required,” Ruddiman continues. “One of our largest expenses in this part of the world is our utility and energy costs, and we are always looking at new and inventive ways to reduce the consumption and expenses in this area and to improve the green culture within the Towers.
“At Jumeirah we are the environmental management champions for the Group, having been Green Globe certified 2 years ago – we were rated at 80 per cent for the first assessment and that increased to 92 per cent earlier this year.
“However, being environmentally considerate is not just about certification and accreditation, but the day-to-day management of the functions within the hotel should become routine and second nature, and a part of the way we do things around here. Next month we will be replacing 5,000 light bulbs with LED lights around the Complex – I am told this will reduce our electricity consumption by 60 per cent.
“We also filter the grey water leaving the building for our gardens, and our waste segregation and recycling program is extremely well managed. We have an environmental committee which meets monthly to discuss how we can improve our processes to become more effective.”
With Dubai’s retail business very much bouncing back from the downturn of 2008 and 2009, Emirates Towers is enjoying what Ruddiman describes as an “amazing and exciting time.” To be successful means having the right property in the right location, with the right management, people, processes and operations.
“As hoteliers in Dubai, we are really looking forward to November this year, when the host city will be announced for the World Expo 2020 event. Dubai is a candidate city which stands a very good chance at being nominated, and it would be a very meaningful for Dubai, the country and the region, as it would create further stimulus for development to underpin Dubai’s importance as a business, tourism and leisure hub.
“Dubai has executed a very effective strategic development plan over the last 15 years, and has continued to perform exceptionally well, with multi-channels of business, and attractions and events for all visitors. There are an significant amount of attractions within one city, and you really have to visit to see and experience this amazing country for yourself,” Ruddiman underlines.
All of which has been good news for Jumeirah Emirates Towers, a unique venue that truly stands out.